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DUI in Arizona, MVD, And Your Driver License

Overview of DUI and the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles 

  • If you find yourself arrested for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUI) in the State of Arizona , and you have submitted to a breath, blood, or urine test, (Implied Consent) and the results of the test reveals a blood/breath alcohol result of .08% or higher, or you have refused these tests, you can expect to be involved in two separate legal proceedings.

  • These proceedings consist of

    1. A “criminal” proceeding dealing with the merits of your DUI case in either a City or Justice Court in Arizona; and

    2. A “civil” proceeding dealing with the Department of Motor Vehicles (MVD) and the likely suspension of your driver license or privilege if your are from out of state.

  • It is important to note these two proceedings are mutually exclusive. They are not inter-dependent to each other.  The outcome of one will not affect the other. You could lose the civil driver license suspension proceeding, and win your criminal DUI matter either through a dismissal or not guilty verdict. The reverse is also true.  You could also win both matters or lose both matters. How the the MVD driver license hearing is handled is extremely important.

The “Criminal” Proceeding  

  • Your DUI arrest (A.R.S. § 28-1381) begins your “criminal” proceeding. Generally, this is pending now or is possibly resolved in a City or County Justice Court.  The consequences of this proceeding -- plea of guilty, or a verdict of guilty following a jury or bench trial -- could result in mandatory jail time, fines, fees and assessments, supervised or unsupervised probation, as well as a criminal record.  See Arizona DUI Sentencing Chart

The “Civil” Proceeding Regarding Your Driver License

  • The civil proceeding is a non criminal proceeding before a administrative hearing officer at the Department of Motor Vehicles, Driver License Division.  This scope of this proceeding deals with a possible suspension of your driver’s license, or if from out of state, your privilege to drive in Arizona (A.R.S. § 28-1385; A.R.S. § 28-1321).  
  • This proceeding is initiated by the arresting police officer by serving you with a “Notice of Suspension”. If you have been arrested in Arizona for DUI and you take a breath, blood or urine test, and the results measured a alcohol concentration of .08%  or more within 2 hours of driving, or you refuse to take the blood, breath or other chemical test, the arresting police will serve you with a 90 day driver license suspension notice, or in the case of refusal, a 12 month driver license or driving privilege suspension. This notice is contained on the “Admin Per Se/Implied Consent” form. The police should give you two copies of this form, one yellow and one pink

Arizona Residents

  • If your test results indicate a result of .08% or higher, the police will seize your Arizona driver license, and issue you a temporary license which is valid for 15 days from the date the police served you with the notice, or if you request a hearing within the 15 days window, until the hearing is conducted and the outcome determined.  Since the police have confiscated your driver license, the yellowImplied Consent/Admin Per Se” form is your temporary driver license. 

Non Arizona Residents

  • If you are from out of state, the police cannot seize your out of state driver license.  However, they will serve you with a notice of suspension of your privilege to drive in Arizona.  The suspension will take effect 15 days after service unless you request a hearing within the 15 days. If a hearing is requested your privilege to drive in Arizona will not be suspended until the hearing is conducted and the outcome determined.

Refusal

  • If you “refused” to take the breath, blood or urine test, the police will serve you a notice of a 12 month suspension of your driver license, or privilege to drive if you are from out of state.  This suspension becomes effective 15 days from the date of service unless you request a hearing.  If a hearing is requested your driver license or privilege to drive in Arizona will not be suspended until the hearing is conducted and the outcome determined.

An Important Note About Refusal

  • If your refused to take a breath, blood or urine test, it is highly likely that the police obtained a search warrant and obtained your blood anyway.  If this is the case, your driver license or privilege to drive will still be suspended for 12 months even though the police obtained your blood through the use of a search warrant. 

How to Request A Hearing

  • A request for hearing must be submitted in writing to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Generally, the pink copy of the “Admin Per Se/Implied Consent” form, which should have been furnished by the police, is used to request this hearing.  It is important to fill out the information completely and accurately on the back of the pink form. You must check the box indicating you are requesting an Administrative Hearing and mail it to:

Arizona Department of Transportation

Executive Hearing Office

Mail Drop 507M

P.O. Box 2100

Phoenix, AZ. 85001-2100

 

within 15 days of service to you by the police. Do not select Summary Review, this will not get you a hearing, but merely a review of the paperwork submitted by the police to the hearing office.

Why Is This So Important 

  • If you are a first offender with no DUI convictions within the past five years, and you took a breath, blood or other required test, and if you are planning to plead “Guilty” in the criminal case, or you think a “Guilty” finding is likely, this information is extremely important.

  • In the “Criminal” case, if you plead guilty to the charge of DUI, or if you are found guilty by a jury or the Court, you will be sentenced in accordance within the present sentencing guidelines.  Further, the law requires the Court to notify the State that a DUI conviction has been entered.  (A.R.S. § 28-3001).  When the State receives that notification, your driver’s license will be suspended for ninety (90) days. 

  • However, if you are a first offender, and if you took the breath, blood or other required test, and if you have been found “Guilty” in the criminal proceeding, or you feel that such a result is likely, then you may wish to stipulate (agree) to a suspension of your driver license prior to or at the MVD hearing. 

What Are The Advantages of Agreeing to the Suspension:   

  • A stipulation to the suspension will entitle you to a 60 day restricted driving permit following a 30 day suspension.  The suspension is still classified as a 90 day suspension.  To obtain the restricted driving permit, you must apply at a local MVD office following the first 30 days of the suspension.

  • A stipulation to the suspension will generally resolve the “Civil” proceeding sooner and oftentimes well before the resolution of your Criminal matter in court. This is advantageous as you get the suspension over with sooner and under less onerous circumstances.

  • A stipulation to the suspension will generally result in no further suspension of your driver license if you later plead or are found guilty of your DUI in court.

  • In the case of a stipulated suspension from MVD, there will be no requirement that you post proof of Financial Responsibility before your Arizona driver license or privilege is reinstated.  In some cases, it may be to your best interest to consider a stipulated or voluntary suspension prior to or at the MVD hearing to eliminate the later possibility of a suspension resulting from Court action and the attendant Financial Responsibility obligations.  This court action would happen by “winning” your MVD matter and later losing your DUI at trial or by guilty plea.

  • A stipulation to the suspension will allow you to select the day you want your suspension to begin, so long as the suspension start date is within 45 days of your MVD hearing date.  This allows flexibility in arranging transportation to work or school during the initial 30 days of the suspension.

  • NOTE: If you request a hearing and actually go through with it and lose, the only difference between losing the hearing and stipulating/agreeing to the suspension is that your will not be able to chose the day the suspension begins.  You should still be eligible for the 30 day driver license suspension followed by the 60 day restricted driving permit.

What Are the Disadvantages of Agreeing to the Suspension 

  • If you stipulate or agree to the suspension, you do not get a hearing with the administrative law judge.  You do not get to challenge the police officers or contest the evidence in the civil hearing.   Sometimes this hearing may be important to gather critical evidence in your DUI case.  However, this decision should not be made without first discussing your DUI case and individual circumstances with an experienced DUI defense attorney.

What Are the Disadvantages of Having the Administrative Hearing 

  • If you have the Administrative Hearing and win, and later lose your DUI case, either through a plea or finding of guilty at trial, MVD will suspend your driver license for 90 consecutive days.  There is no eligibility for a restricted driving permit following the first 30 days of the suspension. 

  • Further, if you are convicted either through a plea or finding of guilty in court you will be required to provide proof of financial responsibility (insurance) for three years  (A.R.S. § 28-3319) by filing with the State of Arizona either a $40,000.00 cash deposit, or Certificates of Deposit (CD’s) totaling $40,000.00 or a Certificate of Insurance (SR22), (A.R.S. § 28-4077); (A.R.S. § 28-4084). 

  • This Financial Responsibility requirement could have significant cost implications for you, depending upon your selection of acceptable Financial Responsibility filings and/or your insurance carrier’s underwriting requirements.

Final Thoughts 

  • Prior to or during the MVD hearing, you may ask the administrative law judge any questions that you may have concerning these suspensions and their effects, but remember that the Judge cannot give you legal advice as to what you should do.  The administrative law judge works for the State of Arizona, and is not necessarily there to help you.

  • In all instances, it is important to understand your legal rights.  Only a qualified and experienced DUI defense attorney can explain these rights to you.

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